Live Longer! 10 Easy Things You Can Do to Reduce Toxins and Stress
Those of you who have read my previous articles, or have checked out my website or social media, would know that I focus on helping people reduce and manage stress. So, you may be wondering why I am writing about reducing your exposure to toxins? Well, when most people think of stress they typically think of psychological (mental) stress and physical stress (such as muscle tension or pain). There is a third type of stress that most people do not think about, yet it can have catastrophic impact in our bodies and minds, even potentially causing damage to our brain, cells and/or DNA: biochemical / cellular stress.
AUSCFM (functionalmedicine.com.au) defines cellular stress as “a form of biological stress that occurs when cells are exposed to adverse environmental conditions, which affect the optimal equilibrium of chemicals and biomolecules inside and outside the cell.”(1) This can impact the normal functioning of the body, potentially disrupting or disturbing hormones and the endocrine system (which regulates hormones and many processes in our body), impacting metabolism, causing inflammation, damaging cells, proteins, DNA or RNA. Consequently, cellular stress can impact the key systems throughout our body including nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems, potentially causing serious health issues, increased risk of disease, and/or chronic illness.
There are several things which can cause biochemical or cellular stress on the body (e.g., extreme temperatures, dehydration, infections, alcohol / drug use, poisons, pollutants, chemicals, and toxins, among other things). As one example, a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine(3) found that exposure to common household cleaning chemicals from cleaning your home only once per week for 20 years results in significant lung damage. And, the lung damage for professional cleaners is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes daily for 10 to 20 years. Both of these findings are shocking and concerning!
There is also a close connection between stress and hormones. For example, you have likely heard about increased cortisol production and adrenaline associated with stress. These are both hormones. All of the various hormones are silently pumping through our bodies, with a delicate balance and interconnection or dependency on each other. For example, high cortisol (stress hormone) levels can lead to low progesterone levels, which can impact female fertility and/or lead to miscarriage if unknown and untreated.
So, if you want to reduce the stress on your mind and body, and/or improve your overall health, then you need to consider your exposure to chemicals and toxins in your home and everyday environment. If this is not something you have previously considered, and it is new to you, it may seem a bit overwhelming. This is understandable, as most of us are exposed to thousands of chemicals each day, in everything from the air we breathe, the personal care products we use, to the foods we eat, the things we use in our kitchens, and the products to clean our homes. Having said that, there are some really easy steps you can take to reduce the amount of toxins that you and your family members are exposed to every day. And, the good news is that you do not have to do everything at the same time. As you run out of a product, just take a few minutes to search for a healthier, non-toxic alternative. Or, if it’s an inexpensive item and high-risk, I say just bin it and replace it. There are a lot of good options out there in the market now a days, so it isn’t about giving something up, or going without, but rather trying a different product alternative.
Here are 10 EASY things you can do to help reduce the toxic load and stress on your body:
1) Stop buying bottled water, and definitely do NOT reuse those plastic bottles. They are not built or intended for reuse, are not BPA-free, and will leech chemicals into your drinking water, not to mention the environmental impact. Simply filter your drinking water at home, and store it in the fridge and carry it with you, ideal in glass or stainless steel, else BPA-free plastic. Also, ensure to drink enough water daily as this will help combat stress on your body and mind, as well as support your kidneys and liver to function well to help rid your body of toxins. Having said that, you also want to avoid over taxing the liver with toxic exposure in the first place.
2) Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. It’s a relatively common practice for people to use alcohol as a means to reduce stress; ironically, alcohol is one of the things that contributes to all three forms of stress (psychological/mental, physical, and cellular). It is only a very temporary masking, and then it has the reverse affect soon after. It causes poor sleep quality, raises cortisol (stress hormone) levels, shifts hormonal balance, impacts metabolism, impairs the immune system, can damage cells, not to mention possibly leading to addiction and/or depression.(10) Doing something like “Dry July” is good, but it’s even better to reduce your weekly consumption on an ongoing basis, and better yet to eliminate it all together or save it for special occasions.
3) Food shop “chemically conscious”. Notice I didn’t just say “buy organic”. If you can, that’s great (particularly while pregnant or breast feeding), but I’m conscious that in the current environment things are especially expensive and supply is unreliable at times. Plus, you really do not need to buy everything organic! In fact, buying some things organic is a waste of money. If you eat meat, I recommend buying the cleanest meat you can find and afford (ideally organic, else possibly hormone-free, grass-fed options). It’s also best to trim extra fat from your cuts of meat, as animals store or accumulate chemicals in their fat cells. If budget permits, I would also prioritise buying some fruit & veg organic. Prioritise which to buy organic by checking the EWG’s list of the “Dirty Dozen”TM and the “Clean Fifteen”TM. Things on the “Dirty Dozen” TM list should be prioritised for buying organic, and if you need to prioritise further within that list, consider which produce has the softest skin which chemicals can more easily permeate, and which you can apply more pressure to wash (e.g., think of the difference between berries, versus an apple or pepper). And lastly, for the things on the “Clean Fifteen” TM list, do not waste your money on buying organic, unless you want to also avoid GMO products (see the EWG link for details). Download my FREE GUIDE to CLEAN EATING for additional info.
4) Replace any anti-bacterial products that contain triclosan (sometimes abbreviated TCS) with a product that does not contain this chemical. Check your antibacterial hand/body wash, gels, sanitisers and toothpaste. The National Institute of Environmental & Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the UN have named Triclosan as one of the most common endocrine disruptors(4,5). Endocrine disruptors can interfere with hormones, brain, reproduction, and normal development, as well as disturb the immune and nervous systems, and increase cancer risk. (4,6)
5) Replace non-stick cookware with a safer cookware (e.g., stainless steel, glass, copper, ceramic, or cast iron). When purchasing new cookware, always check that it is free from PFAs / PFCs (which are Perfluorinated Compounds, Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances used for non-stick). If you cannot afford to replace all at once, that is okay. Start with replacing the one pot/pan that you use the most, and keep an eye out for a good sale on a new cookware set (e.g., I got a full set of stainless steel cookware for 50% off sale at a major retailer).
6) Immediately bin any baby or feminine products that contain Talc/Talcum, and replace with products which do not contain this ingredient. Check your powders, pads/nappies, and bathing products (e.g., washes, salts, bombs, fizzies). This ingredient has been linked to ovarian and cervical cancers (talc has been found inside ovarian and cervical cancer cells as far back as the 1970s)(7). Products with talc can also contain asbestos (a known carcinogenic), as the two “live” near each other in the ground, and thus asbestos has been found in some samples randomly taken of talcum/talc powder(7). Multiple studies have found that women using powders with Talc/Talcum have about a 30% increased risk of ovarian cancer(7). One study found that women who regularly applied talcum powder to the genital area and sanitary pads had 3.28 times (328%) the risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who do not use the powder. (7,8) There are other products available on the market without this ingredient, so it is just unnecessary to take the risk. To reduce chemicals introduced into your body, also buy organic cotton feminine products (tampons), as cotton is one of the most chemically sprayed crops, including chemicals the EPA has deemed as “known human carcinogens”.(9)
7) Avoid buying and storing food and drinks in plastic containers and bags as much as possible. If you do use plastic containers, ensure they are BPA-free, or better yet, get some glass storage containers. They are great for storing food and water, as is stainless steel, and they will hold-up much better and longer than plastic as well.
8) Replace harsh chemical household cleaning products (e.g., bleach, ammonia, chloramine, and many other) with more natural products. If you enjoy DIY and/or saving money, you can make your own. I know many people who clean their homes with inexpensive natural things such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and/or essential oils. If that’s not your thing, you can also certainly find safe options to purchase for convenience as well. Again, there are many good options available in the market.
9) Ditch chemical air fresheners and candles. It’s so easy to make air freshener simply using a water sprayer, with a few drops of essential oil(s). You can also diffuse essential oils in our home, in place of chemical air fresheners and/or chemical candles.
10) I cannot possibly cover all of the personal care products and chemicals, because that’s a huge category unto itself. What I would suggest is taking some time to check for harmful chemicals in the personal care products that you use. The EWG is a good resource for checking harmful products in your various cosmetics.
While these are ten great things you can do, this is really only scratching the surface. I would love to go into more detail, but unfortunately, we are unable to cover all of the specific products on the “safe” and “harmful” lists here.
For those who want to take this a step further, learn more, and take some guided actions, along with support (including specific product recommendations), please join our REDUCE TOXINS CHALLENGE. We are currently launching and running the USA version, and accepting names for the "waitlist" for the Australian version coming later this year. It runs for 5 weeks, one group session per week where we cover a different area of your home/life (kitchen, food, cleaning, & personal care products) in more depth. Simply submit the “Contact Us” form to join the wait list. You can also download my FREE GUIDE to CLEAN EATING.
If you would like to learn even more about stress, the effects it has on your body and health, and most importantly how to effectively reduce and better manage the stress in your life, Elevate Your Life Coaching offers a short course/program called Master Your Stress. Your coach provides you with personalised support and guides you in taking immediate actions, as well as developing a personalised stress management plan to help elevate your resilience and effectiveness at work and home. Simply contact us for more information on this offering, or schedule a free chat here.
© 2022 Elevate Your Life Coaching PTY LTD., www.elevateyourlifecoaching.com.au
Note: This article is also published by the Natural Parent Magazine:
Stephanie Sullivan is a dual certified Life and Health Coach and founder of Elevate Your Life Coaching PTY LTD. After 23 years in demanding, high-stress corporate roles as a business consultant, then a corporate executive, she knows first-hand about stress and trying to balance career and parenting demands, along with personal needs and wellbeing. Now Steph’s purpose is helping people to make life changes to reduce stress, increase energy, and achieve their personal goals, career / life ambitions, and wellbeing.
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1. “Body & Mind: Drivers of Stress (Stressors)”, AUSCFM. https://functionalmedicine.com.au/2020/02/20/stressors/. Accessed 7 July 2022.
2. “Biochemical Stressors”, My Wellbeing Compass, https://www.mywellbeingcompass.com/get-started-with-my-wellbeing-compass/biochemical-stressors/. Accessed 7 July 2022
3. O Svanes, et. al. “Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction”, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, ©American Thoracic Society, 2018. As sighted by Leah Serbe (MS, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES) in “Home Cleaning Products Bombshell: Exposure Equivalent to Smoking 20 Cigarettes a Day, Study Says”, March 2018. DrAxe.com (https://draxe.com/health/home-cleaning-products/?utm_campaign=Q2_2022-organic-axe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_content=draxe&fbclid=IwAR13nMmzVvwUjwHQEIWcYLRW3iXtXqR5Rs2h-L7kmKz8l5UqQCiztRP010I&fs=e&s=cl). Accessed 7 July 2022.
4. “Endocrine Disruptors”. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm#:~:text=What%20are%20some%20common%20endocrine%20disruptors%3F%20Bisphenol%20A,into%20the%20environment%20during%20waste%20burning%20and%20wildfires. Accessed 7 July 2022.
5. Little Pro. “UN List of Identified Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals”. ChemSafetyPRO. Aug 20, 2018. https://www.chemsafetypro.com/Topics/Restriction/UN_list_identified_endocrine_disrupting_chemicals_EDCs.html Accessed 8 July 2022
6. “What is Endocrine Disruption?” US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) https://www.epa.gov/endocrine-disruption/what-endocrine-disruption#examples Accessed 7 July 2022.
7. “Talcum Powder Lawsuit – Ovarian Cancer: Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was found to cause ovarian cancer”. Select Justice. July 1, 2022 (last updated). https://www.selectjustice.com/talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer-lawsuit#:~:text=In%20the%20last%20few%20years%20Johnson%20and%20Johnson,but%20chose%20to%20hide%20it%20from%20the%20public. Accessed 8 July 2022.
8. Cramer DW, Welch WR, Scully RE, Wojciechowski CA. Ovarian cancer and talc: a case-control study. Cancer. 1982 Jul 15;50(2):372-6. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19820715)50:2<372::aid-cncr2820500235>3.0.co;2-s. PMID: 7083145. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7083145/ Accessed 8 July 2022
9. Cubie, Doreen. “Cotton and Pesticides – Pick Your Cotton”. Feb 1, 2006. The National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/en/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2006/Cotton-and-Pesticides Accessed 8 July 2022
10. Buddy T. “The Link Between Stress and Alcohol”. VeryWellMind. June 25, 2021 (last updated). https://www.verywellmind.com/the-link-between-stress-and-alcohol-67239#citation-12. Accessed 8 July 2022